Kiwi.com’s global vendor manager Ian Payne managed the impossible and took fifteen flights in fifteen days – and travelled half the world
Mary Kingsley, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Walter Raleigh, Captain James Cook … Ian Payne – while I may have had the benefit of slightly faster modes of transport compared to my peers, I am claiming the crown of the British explorer to have travelled the furthest, the fastest.
Because Kiwi.com sells flights to people from all over the world, we need to have customer support centres on every corner of the globe. While the internet is a fantastic way to organise and communicate, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting for deal-making and scoping everything out.
So I took it upon myself to test our own services to the limit – could I use Kiwi.com’s MultiCity to journey to meetings in China, the Philippines and Jamaica in just two weeks?
My first flight was Prague to Baku, where the airport has a great library in the departure lounge, before jetting onwards to Beijing. I saw the sunset over the Caspian Sea and the sunrise over Beijing. It wasn’t a bad start to the trip.
After reading about Chinese customs before I left, I made sure to greet my hosts with gifts and presented these with both hands. Their large smiles said I had passed my first Chinese cultural test.
Beijing brought sights, smells and sounds that I could only previously imagine; mopeds with a coat on the front to protect people from the elements, panda statues and incredible traffic. I ate peking duck in a restaurant Chairman Mao himself used to frequent, took a short trip to the Bird’s Nest stadium, and visited the stunning Summer Palace.
I even managed to enjoy beautiful blue skies, although the next morning Beijing was again the smoggy city I imagined. My whirlwind of meetings was followed the next day by a flight to Dalian.
As I flew along the coast and neared Dalian, the beautiful lights of the city struck me. My hosts swiftly took us to the hotel, where we enjoyed a productive business dinner with beautiful nighttime views of of the city. I woke the next morning to snow, giving it a very different feel.
After a very productive morning of meetings followed by some immense Chinese food (I have always loved Chinese food but in China it is off the scale) I was whisked away to start making my way to the Philippines.
My driver was delayed and when we arrived at the airport, I had to open up my bag to show them my ever-growing collection of fridge magnets and gifts that set off the sensors. Finally, I made my way to passport control.
What seemed like the entire staff of emigration did an inspection of my passport (involving an examination of me standing with my hand over my mouth) which caused me a little concern. After explaining that I have aged very well compared to my photo from 1999 and that my nose looked different due to being broken playing football, I was allowed to make my way to board a flight to Guangzhou. Phew!
Checking into my next flight in Guangzhou brought another interesting situation. I was asked for details of my onwards flights from the Philippines. In my infinite wisdom, I had left my tickets in the hotel. I had them all in my email, but my email was a Gmail account, which is banned in China. A lesson for anyone visiting China – print those e-tickets or don’t use Gmail!
Arriving in Manila around 2am, tired and hungry after a litany of issues on the way, being told my room was not available as the hotel was overbooked, was not the Filipino greeting I was hoping for! One of the beauties of working in customer service is an innate understanding of how to complain. After politely expressing my dissatisfaction, two free nights’ accommodation, plus a room upgrade, a basket of fruit and a bottle of wine soothed my pain. The initial service may not have been great but the way the complaint was dealt with said a lot about the hotel chain.
The traffic in Manila gave Beijing a run for its money. I paid visits to offices in Manila and Alabang, struck at each location by the wonderfully polite Filipinos. I even managed a quick swim in the hotel pool before heading off for more meetings. After a long, cold Czech winter and a few chilly days in China, the beautiful sunshine and warmth of Manila was a true pleasure.
With a successful couple of days in Manila behind me, the next destination was Jamaica, with the small matter of flights to Abu Dhabi, Amman, Kiev and Brussels, before a lovely 14-hour flight to Montego Bay via the Dominican Republic.
Flying over the Caribbean Sea and seeing Jamaica for the first time was something I won’t forget. The land of Marcus Garvey, Robert Nesta Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Usain Bolt had always been a place I wanted to visit.
I was picked up in the morning by my host from the Jamaican government, who had prepared a full itinerary for me to see all about the customer service industry in Jamaica. A couple of days of meetings and site visits in Montego Bay followed before we headed off to Kingston. My next few days were spent in more meetings and visiting different sites.
In a spare 15 minutes between meetings we even managed a very quick visit to 60 Hope Road – the home of the legendary Bob Marley. As one of my colleagues in business development says: “It is important to take as many photos as possible in one place during business trips, so it appears you have seen something other than offices, planes and airports!”
Jamaican food was another joy to behold. Whether it was ackee and saltfish for breakfast or amazing jerk chicken from Scotchie’s in Ocho Rios, I fell in love with their food.
After a long trip, my journey back to Europe was held up by five hours because of a flight delay. While none of us like flight delays, there are certainly worse places to be stuck for a few hours than Montego Bay.
When I arrived back in Brno, and drank a wonderful Czech beer, I was able to reflect on the most epic trip of my life so far. The next challenge is to find one that surpasses this.
And all of this for just 2,435 euro with Kiwi.com’s MultiCity booking.